Seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi finalized his deal to join Major League Soccer in July 2023, signing a two-and-a-half season contract with Inter Miami paying between $50 million and $60 million annually. News of his arrival has generated such widespread excitement that many are claiming soccer in North America will never be the same because of this so-called Messi Effect.
How Widespread is Messi Mania?
Messi’s immediate impact has been substantial. Consider the following:
- When news of Messi’s arrival became public, global Google searches for Inter Mami increased by more than 1200%.
- Secondary market ticket prices for Messi's first Miami matches were more than 1000% higher than matches from previous years.
- Inter Miami’s Instagram account jumped from 1 million to 14 million followers following Messi’s arrival.
- Inter Miami's managing owner Jorge Mas told CNBC that he expects Messi's arrival to double Inter Miami's yearly revenue.
- Messi's pink Inter Miami jersey was the best-selling jersey across all sports from mid-July to mid-August.
Messi may be joining Inter Miami, but the whole league stands to benefit from a shift in the perspective through which North American soccer is viewed. His decision to continue—and possibly finish—his career in the United States opens the door for recruiting more top-level talent. This, in turn, increases fan interest.
Out of all the U.S. subscriptions to MLS Season Pass since it became available on Apple TV, 46 percent of them began in July. (Messi’s contract reportedly includes a cut of this streaming revenue.)
MLS teams that are facing Messi are also drawing bigger crowds than in previous years. For example, an October 4 game at Chicago’s Soldier Field is on track to generate as much as $10 million in revenue, which has the potential to be a single-game record for the league.
How Can Other Athletes Benefit From the Messi Effect?
Messi's popularity has made him an attractive figure for numerous sponsorship deals. Other professional athletes can learn from Messi's ability to leverage his image and reputation to secure lucrative endorsement contracts with Adidas, Gatorade, Pepsi, Budweiser, and more. This includes how Messi has extended his appeal beyond his home country of Argentina to market himself to a global audience, which can open up a wider range of NIL opportunities.
At Global Sports Advocates, we provide the support professional athletes need to protect their NIL rights, as well as to negotiate favorable contracts with their clubs or teams. Our firm is devoted entirely to the practice of sports law and has represented athletes from around the world. Give us a call at +1-207-747-5899 or contact our office online to schedule your initial consultation.